Countdown to PF Playtest/PF 2, Part II – Miscellaneous Minmaxing Math
This series of articles was made possible by the following list of amazing people:
-Paco Garcia Jaen
-Justin Andrew Mason
As before: I’m pretty excited for PF 2.0 and PF Playtest; I have not yet received the books, and even if none of these wishes/hopes are fulfilled by the system, I’ll remain excited for its final version. I have not read any interviews, previews or anything like this in advance – consciously so. I want to open the Playtest books with a clean slate, without any preconceived notions, positive or negative. These are my wide-eyed hopes for the game.
So, I do have a couple rather disjointed points this time around that probably can best be summed up as “Math” – I know, I know, I’ll try to not be boring. 😉
Anyways, as most folks who ever tried Mythic Adventures or high-level gameplay for that matter, have noticed, at one point, Pathfinder tends to devolve into what was colloquially termed “rocket-launcher tag” – I think of it as Insta-gib-mode, but we all get the idea: At one point, offensive capabilities greatly outclass defensive ones in the game. (Excluding some critters by Everyman Gaming or Rite’s high-level adversaries…or legendary games’ mythic adversary books – there’s a reason I love all of them…)
Now, I did have a character in my home-game, who, courtesy of a ton of supplements, min-maxing and rage-cycling, could stand up to pretty much ANYTHING; it took truly phenomenal effort to kill that character. So yes, making a super-potent tank in PFRPG is very much possible. That being said, the amount of effort required to do so is far beyond the amount of effort required to make a decent offense-based character. From deadly bow-users mowing down legions of foes to Vital Strike-builds to two-weapon-shredders, there are a ton of ways to increase your damage-output, and less to actually withstand these assaults. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’d really love to see:
- A more engaging way to play defensive characters.
This ties in with one of my biggest gripes regarding item-classes: Shields. Shields in PFRPG suck, big time, at least compared to what they offer in literature and similar media: Huddling behind shields to escape a rain of arrows? To withstand a dragon’s breath? Yeah, unless you have the right equipment and the right build, you won’t be doing either. Since we lose damage via two-handing or two-weapon fighting, I think that shields that matter on a strategic level would be awesome – they should grant tangible options, beyond just an AC-bonus.
- Shields should matter.
While we’re on the subject of items and math: If I could have one wish regarding PF Playtest/PF 2, it’s that the math should no longer assume these damn cloaks of resistance, rings of protection, etc. You know – the items that every group sooner or later has, not because the players or characters want them, but to make the math come out right. I *LOATHE* those with a fiery passion. Magic should not feel mundane, and magic items should feel magical, not be essentially required.
- Get rid of the *requirement* for boring items. A cloak of resistance should be a cherished treasure, not something half the party carries around to make the math work out.
Since we’re on the subject of magic items: I do not object to item levels and the like in Starfinder; they fit the game. I do certainly hope that we won’t see the like in Pathfinder…and yet, I kinda do. You see, Pathfinder, with fantasy aesthetics, could use items that remain relevant over the levels. Heck, it’s why I love Purple Duck Games’ Legendary Items so much: In case you were wondering: These are magic items that improve with the characters that wield them, often unlocking unique properties, while remaining relevant over the levels. In my home-game, these items have all but supplanted many of the boring standard items and my players LOVE them. I’ve designed a ton of them myself. In Starfinder, linear progressions make sense; in PFRPG 2.0, I’d love to see items that improve and remain relevant, but they should have some character, not feel like something you could buy in Golarion’s equivalent of an adventurer’s Walmart or Target.
- (At least some) Magic items that improve with the levels and don’t become generic.
While we’re on the subject of items:
- Mundane crafting could use an overhaul to make it more feasible for PCs.
The fact that your paladin was a blacksmith’s son often doesn’t really figure into the game, considering the prohibitive time-investment required.
This brings me to another aspect: I really like the *idea* behind traits. You know, make upbringing, environment etc. matter…but the implementation often boiled down to just another +1 bonus to optimize. I really disliked that – and some 3pps concurred, with e.g. Rite Publishing offering quite a few traits that are very limited in how often they can be used, but when they *are* used, they matter.
- Backgrounds/traits should matter, not be all about optimizing math.
While we’re at the subject of small bonuses that often boil down to none-too-exciting further optimization work: Favored Class Options. I HATE them. Imagine me rattling off AM’s monologue from “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” there; in 99% of the cases, favored class options are BORING and don’t contribute much meaningful modifications to the game. Axe the whole concept, bury it, and never talk about it again.
- Kill favored class options with extreme prejudice. And fire. And acid. And all other energy types. And then disintegrate the frickin’ remains.
That is not to say that the *idea* behind them was bad! Quite the contrary! The idea, at one point, was to better diversify different races and provide benefits for less than ideal class/race-combos. The *idea* behind them is worth keeping; the implementation is not.
- Have an alternative to favored class options that is not a boring chore.
While we’re on the subject of pointless bonus-accumulation: Know what every player and GM I know HATE: Feats that net you +2 to two skills. They sucked in 3.0. They sucked in 3.5. They sucked in PFRPG. They are lazy design par excellence. No player takes them because they like them, ever – they are only ever taken to cap out a skill specialist. I never ever want to see these again, much less be forced to take one to qualify for feats, PrCs, etc. Instead, provide feats that expand the skill-uses with meaningful options.
- Death to bland, min-maxy “+2 to skills” feats.
Since we’ve come to feats…it’s time to slaughter some sacred cows. I’m looking at Endurance, Dodge, Mobility…you know the type of feat. The feats you either get from a class as bonus feats (Yay – you never would have taken them otherwise…), or that you have to waste a feat on to get to the stuff you actually want to do. Once more, this should not mean that the concepts underlying the feats were bad – just that their implementation sucks. Mobility? Don’t get me started. Endurance? Should matter more in the wild and not be outclassed by endure elements from the get-go. Dodge? Good idea, but the benefits are too paltry.
- The boring default feats should matter, and preferably, be actually fun, with some player-agenda.
All right, that’s it for now!
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As always, I remain yours,